Returning to school can be an anxious time for many students (and teachers.) In this article, you will learn some of the most effective group games that will help you to welcome students back to school in a fun, easy and effective way.
Building Relationships Matters
The beginning of the school year is ideal for building connections with and among your students. And playing games is one of the best ways to encourage interaction, foster friendships, and build on existing relationships because… they are FUN.
Anything you do to nourish and build stronger relationships will pave the way for productive engagement, a crucial element in any learning or working environment. And, one of the most powerful and – thankfully – attractive ways to make this happen is to introduce a carefully sequenced series of fun group games & activities.
Here’s what you’ll discover – when you invest time in relationship-building at the start of the school year, you’ll find fewer challenges managing anti-social behaviours later on.
It’s like a win-win-win. Your students will love playing the games, you will enjoy leading them, and everyone will benefit from building a more harmonious learning environment.
Beyond fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere, these activities serve as powerful tools for breaking down barriers, encouraging collaboration, and building a sense of community. Fun interactions not only enhance social bonds but also contribute to a more conducive learning environment.
Research consistently highlights the positive impact of such initiatives, demonstrating improved communication, heightened motivation, and decreased disruptive behaviours. Embracing these playful experiences makes learning enjoyable and lays a robust foundation for a successful academic journey.
Top Ten Icebreakers & Group Games
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The Art & Science of Back to School Activities
Before I direct you to a bunch of ready-to-lead-and-play program templates, let’s take a moment to understand that there is both an art and a science to getting this right. In other words, you cannot expect just any icebreakers and get-to-know-you activities to welcome your students back to school happily.
There is an art to how you introduce and lead the activities. But there is also a science that governs the success of a program of activities.
To make a long story short, here is a quick overview of a powerful yet straightforward program design template that I apply to EVERY program I deliver.
0. Unofficial Start
Introducing one or more ‘unofficial start’ activities before the formal program commences holds immense advantages. This prelude sets a welcoming tone, easing participants into the upcoming curriculum and creating an inclusive environment. It serves as a catalyst for relationship-building, allowing individuals to familiarize themselves with peers and facilitators in a relaxed setting. This informal initiation promotes a sense of belonging, diminishing potential anxieties and enhancing engagement. Furthermore, it paves the way for smoother integration into the main program, as participants enter with established connections and a shared camaraderie. An unofficial start becomes a pivotal strategy for cultivating a positive, connected, and receptive community from the program’s outset. You can learn more about an unofficial start and what these activities could look like here and here.
1. Official Start
When you feel that the energy in the room has peaked, it’s time to make an official start. Up to this point, it was not even necessary to know the names of the people around you, but welcoming everyone back to school, making introductions and spending a moment on any other formalities will land more powerfully now that your class is engaged and their brains are switched on.
2. Small Activities
As I often say, it’s really hard to be left out of a pair. So, start your official program of interactive games with lots of partner and small group activities. This builds confidence in those students who may be a little more reserved or shy and also helps to build more energy in the room (which is never a bad idea.) There is no shortage of small group get-to-know-you-better activities. In addition to those described in the templates below, take a look at Icebreaker Question Exchange, One Two Three, Crosstown Connections and Story of Your Name to get you started.
3. Bigger Activities
Maybe these larger activities occur in the first hour,m or maybe your group needs more time, but gradually introduce more activities that engage larger groups at a time. For example, present a game like Nonsense Numbers, which works well with 6 to 10 people in a group. Or split the class in half and invite the two newly formed teams to compete in a fun round of Through the Wringer, Chicken Baseball or Giants, Wizards, Elves.
Free Welcome Back to School Program Templates
Here are five ready-to-play templates that will guide you step by step to leading some of the most enjoyable back-to-school activities you could imagine.
Take your pick, or choose to lead them in sequence.
Either way, you are guaranteed to engage your group in a fun, positive and interactive experience.
Back to School Games - Lesson Template 1 Back to School Games - Lesson Template 2
Back to School Games - Lesson Template 3 Back to School Games - Lesson Template 4
Back to School Games - Lesson Template 5
Q: What are your favourite back-to-school games for students?
Please leave a comment below and share 🙂